CanWest has made a reputation for crying foul over copyright infringement. So an observer could be forgiven for being confused to learn that Canada’s largest media conglomerate has re-printed an xtra.ca story without permission.
GlobalTV.com has lifted content from xtra.ca word-for-word and without compensation or credit to the freelancer who wrote it.
In Apr 2008, xtra.ca contributor Kevin Allen wrote an article about The Cure for Love, a Calgary filmmaker’s documentary about the Canadian ex-gay movement.
Allen’s article first appeared on xtra.ca on Apr 8, four days before the television premiere of the film on Global TV.
But on Apr 12, Allen’s article was posted on GlobalTV.com, word-for-word, with no attribution or compensation to Allen, and without his permission.
Allen just learned of the theft this past week. He says the situation is ironic, given that CanWest has very strict policies about the copyright of their content — and displays the copyright symbol on every page of their own website.
“Right on their website, they have their disclaimer about copyright protection,” he says. “I guess one person in the organization can have a poor sense of judgment, but that’s a really poor sense of judgment.”
CanWest’s director of online content, Andrew Lundy, says he isn’t sure why the article was taken from xtra.ca, but that he would be working with Allen to reach an agreement.
Allen says CanWest staff have apologized to him, but he’s pushing for financial compensation. It appears that the article has been on GlobalTV.com since Apr 12 — nearly two months.
CanWest has a history of coming down hard on copyright and trademark infringements. Some people have criticized the company for recent legal cases that they say amounts to censorship and restricting freedom of speech.
Last summer, a Vancouver group published a parody of the Vancouver Sun to draw attention to the pro-Israel media coverage in the CanWest-owned paper. The satirical fake newspaper changed the Sun’s tagline from “Seriously Westcoast since 1912” with “Seriously Zionist since 2001,” the year CanWest assumed ownership of the publication.
But CanWest didn’t find the parody so funny.
In Dec 2007, CanWest filed a lawsuit against the Vancouver printing press, peace activist Mordecai Briemberg and six unknown Jane and John Does. The lawsuit claimed the fake newspaper infringed on the Vancouver Sun’s trademark rights.
Briemberg, a Rhodes scholar and recent recipient of the YMCA Power of Peace Award, was interested to hear about CanWest’s theft of an xtra.ca freelancer’s work.
“It’s this mentality of ‘I’m big enough to do anything I want and you’re small enough to be pushed around,'” he says.
The BC Civil Liberties Association is calling on CanWest to drop the lawsuit against Briemberg and the printing press.
“Whether successful or not, the case works against the principles of press freedom that support CanWest’s media operations across Canada,” says BCCLA spokesperson Tom Sandborn. “Too often, the mere threat of court action is enough to stifle public debate or satirical expression.”